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Second, the guys taking the class in the show didn't seem to get any detailed training on ballistics. In fact, most of the guys interviewed seemed like they were still in the "oblivious" mode when it came to knowing even what caliber they were training with. They just didn't seem "into it" like most of us on this forum. Does anyone know what extent the snipers are trained in ballistics?
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From my direct observtions I'd agree that many of the snipers in the schools do not have the background in ballistics. That being said I also believe they don't need as in-depth a knowledge base in ballistics as we may believe. These fellas are basically training to be observers then shooters, very good shooters, maybe hunters of men would be better. They are quite often autonomous, operate on their own with their observer and make decision in the field as to targets selection. A good deal of training going into concealment and observation with emphasis on seeing and retaining details. These guys are trained to see, remember and report details. They typically shoot 7.62 NATO (~308 Win) with issue ammunition either M118LR (Long Range, 175 Sierra MatchKing) or the older M118SB (Special Ball, 173 FMJ Lake City) and lastly anything they can get (delinked 147's). I believe only the AMU (Army Marksmanship Unit) uses special, hand-made, ammunition and the deployed guys use issue ammo.
The M-24 is built by Remington in the custom shop and is a issued kit complete with spare parts, comes with a Leupold M3A (10X Mark 4). It's a long action Model 700 mated to an H S Precision PST-05 ALOP (adjustable length of pull) stock.
The rifle is not bedded in the stock, it's a field removable unit I understand.
The snipers are trained on the M24 to be able to perform their job, they are taught (in true military fashion) only that which is required for them to complete the job (the KISS method). They do not need as much ballistic theory as some might believe. Lastly and most notable, they are doing a job that they may have very little external interest in... Shooting is probably not their hobby. We had an intense interest in shooting and ballistics and a desire to continue to learn, their interest is to learn all that is needed to survive and pursue their life interests and hobbies.
The M40 Marine Corp issue rifle is as explained, McMillan, bedded, built by special armorers at Quantico, VA. This is not a rifle that a Marine can (should) take apart in the field. It's also 7.62 NATO and has a 10X Unertl scope (Schmidt and Benders on the way I believe). Theys guys also use M118LR or M118SB or delinked 147s. I don't believe they get any special ammo other than that.
I do believe they perform special tasks with the 308's every once in a while and could use AP and tracer but I believe there's only limited ballistic info available to the average sniper for these types. (No too long ago I did a test for the Army using tracer ammo.)
There are special units using 300 Win Mags and ammo (A-191 I believe) and 50 BMGs and 338 Lapua. (I believe the Dutch military uses the 338 Lapua exclusively as when I was at a competition a few years back they seemed reluctant to shoot the heavy kicker for the lengthy event.)
Snipers are an elite group and are very good at their job, it's a serious business of course. I believe folks often make them into something they are not and give them qualities they do not have or do not need. (I believe it's a bit of the evolution solution to a problem... The "Just Good Enough" solution, snipers are taught (in the relatively short school) to be just good enough to be better than their opponent(s).
There are better shooters in the ranks of civilians than there are in the sniper community but there are skills s sniper has for which there is no civilian equivalent.